Since the problem with Flat Run emerged, I’ve been deeply bothered by the complete and utter lack of urgency on the part of the BSF board and especially of its president, Joseph McKinney. From a preservation standpoint, this is an emergency of the highest order–the wanton destruction of core battlefield land. One would think that that would trigger a panicked reaction–and it did, with those of us who care about such things–but neither Mr. McKinney nor his board have responded.
I finally figured it out.
Mr. McKinney’s wife apparently thinks I’ve been unkind to her husband and fired an unsolicited e-mail to me this morning, just dripping with self-righteous anger. My first reaction to it was, “Well, I’ve touched a nerve here.”
I’ve been in the practice of law for 24 years now. For 22 of those 24 years, I’ve spent no less than half of my time doing business and real estate litigation. I’ve tried a bunch of cases along the way, including a few jury trials. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things. One of the things that I’ve learned is that I’m pretty good at getting people to tell me the things that I want to know.
In this instance, realizing that I had touched a nerve, I decided to see whether I could get Mrs. McKinney stoked up enough that she would tell me something useful. I composed a response to her that was intentionally rude and condescending. I wanted to see whether she would take my bait, and she did, big time. I got back another nasty e-mail, drowning in righteous indignation, and telling me what a horrible person I am. However, in that e-mail was precisely the little nugget of gold I hoped for: Mrs. McKinney informed me that Mr. Troilo, the person destroying Flat Run, is a good friend of hers (and presumably of her husband).
And there it was–my answer. It was now clear as day. The lack of a substantive response is the result of a major, if not irreconcilable, conflict of interest. Mr. McKinney, whether consciously or unconsciously, apparently thinks that maintaining his friendship with Mr. Troilo is more important than doing what he swore an oath to do.
A conflict of interest is “a situation in which a person has a private or personal interest sufficient to appear to influence the objective exercise of his or her official duties as, say, a public official, an employee, or a professional.” In my lawyer’s world, avoiding conflicts of interest is one of the major ethical obligations that I, as an attorney, have to fulfill. I cannot give the necessary loyalty to a client if I have a conflict of interest. If I have a conflict of interest, I either must get both sides to waive it in writing, or I have to step aside. In nearly all interests, I step aside for appearance sake.
Mr. McKinney has a very serious conflict of interest here, and rather than do the right thing, he has either chosen his friendship with Mr. Troilo, or he’s hoping to just avoid the issue and hope that if he does nothing, it will just go away. In either case, he is not putting the interests of the BSF first. Neither is acceptable. There are two steps here: either resign (which is the honorable thing to do), or step aside and let someone without a conflict of interest represent the interests of the Brandy Station Foundation.
What will you do, Mr. McKinney?Scridb filter